Hundreds of independent public blockchains exist, but most of these blockchains lack the ability to communicate with one another, preventing the transfer of assets and data across chains, or replication of protocol-specific applications on new chains.
Some developers build new layers and applications on top of these independent blockchains in order to take advantage of their existing protocol security and communities. Such multichain systems allow for a broader interoperability between applications and tokens, but even this setup is limiting. Tokens built to operate within a single protocol ecosystem like Tendermint can not go beyond those chains, and remain isolated from the broader crypto universe. Wrapped assets are another technique to use tokens from one blockchain on another, but these often require centralized entities to hold the original asset or decentralized, but capital intensive, solutions like tBTC.
Interoperability is an important component to push the crypto ecosystem toward becoming part of the mainstream financial system. The ability to communicate and share information between blockchains is necessary to expand adoption, build community, and improve the experience of participating in the blockchain ecosystem as a whole. Establishing a two-way connection between independently designed blockchains is not simple, therefore it is no small feat for NEAR to launch the NEAR Rainbow Bridge.
NEAR, a recently launched protocol, focuses on user and developer experience for decentralized applications. As such, they have a distinct interest in connecting directly with Ethereum, the most popular protocol for applications, and providing its vibrant developer community a simple way to use ETH on NEAR. The NEAR Rainbow Bridge provides this access in a trustless and permissionless manner.
Most currently operating bridges require users to trust an additional component, such as a separate validator set, outside of the two base protocols. With the Rainbow Bridge, a user need not trust any outside party’s security other than the miners and validators on the two individual chains. As long as they have faith in NEAR and Ethereum security, developers can use the bridge to take advantage of the lower gas fees on NEAR without having to build a completely new user base.
The NEAR development team laid out the details of the bridge’s trustless nature in their excellent explanatory post. “To trust the bridge, you need to [trust] (1) that Ethereum blocks are final after X confirmations...currently [decided by the bridge] for the app developer, but soon app developers will be able to determine X for themselves, (2) that at no time, 2/3 of the validators stake on NEAR blockchain is dishonest…, and (3) that it is not possible to exponentially increase the minimum gas price of Ethereum blocks by more than 2x with every block for more than 4 hours.” (Point 3 will only exist until EIP665 is accepted.)
All ERC-20 tokens, such as DAI, UNI, AAVE, and CRO, can be used on the bridge; over three-quarters of a million USD in value has been bridged thus far. As the Ethereum ecosystem grows, so can NEAR’s.
The Rainbow Bridge “allows any information that is cryptographically provable on NEAR to be usable in Ethereum contracts and vice versa - including the ability to read the state and schedule calls with callbacks on the other chain.” Any developer can deploy and maintain the bridge, and anyone can use it by onboarding directly from MetaMask. In addition, the bridge can adapt if and when either protocol experiences changes. NEAR is slated to release Ethereum Virtual Machine (EVM) support in Q2 2021 to open up the ability for developers to launch Ethereum code directly on NEAR.
The Rainbow Bridge is just the beginning for interoperability on NEAR. Because the bridge is built to be protocol agnostic, it can work as a tool for communication between NEAR and any other smart contract chain.
Interested in developing on NEAR? Check out our NEAR Query & Transact clusters that connect you directly to NEAR’s blockchain data.
Bison Trails is a blockchain infrastructure platform-as-a-service (PaaS) company based in New York City. We built a platform for anyone who wants to participate in 23 new chains effortlessly.
We also make it easy for anyone building Web 3.0 applications to connect to blockchain data from 33 protocols with Query & Transact (QT). Our goal is for the entire blockchain ecosystem to flourish by providing robust infrastructure for the pioneers of tomorrow.
In January, 2021, we announced Bison Trails joined Coinbase to accelerate our mission to provide easy-to-use blockchain infrastructure, now as a standalone product line. The Bison Trails platform will continue to support our customers. With Coinbase’s backing, we will enhance our infrastructure platform and make it even easier to participate in decentralized networks and build applications that connect to blockchain data.
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